|By Wallen Simwaka
Zambia’s first ever people’s constitution has remained elusive with the country has seen three Constitutional Review commissions in more than twenty years. The Patriotic Front (PF) formed government on the pledge that it would end the hunt for the new constitution within 90 days from the date President Sata recited the Presidential oath on September 23, 2011.
Zambia’s hunt for the new and durable constitution began more than two decades ago and the Mvunga Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) marked the beginning of a long, rough and economically tedious journey to the country’s search of the supreme law of the land.
The constitutional making process in Zambia has been a financially, politically, socially stressful and costly spectacle for the country and its citizens who have been demanding for a durable and universally accepted constitution in the last two wasted decades.
In 1993, Dr Frederick Chiluba, then republican president constituted a Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) that was headed by renowned lawyer and freedom fighter John Mwanakatwe.
It was an attempt that gave Zambians renewed hope that the country would eventually have a constitution that would stand the test of time.
Sadly, the process lacked popular support and the resultant constitutional amendment of 1996 was without legitimacy as most of the recommendations were unilaterally rejected by the Chiluba government.
This rendering the entire process agonizingly worthless but with colossal of public money wasted
When the recommendations and most of the submissions of the Mwanakatwe CRC were trashed, late John Mwanakatwe felt used, abused and refused.
Zambia’s democratic process has over the years continued to blossom, wining regional and international admiration as power has kept on changing hands without strife but in the same period of growing democracy, its constitution making process has remained the biggest debacle.
And there was renewed hope yet again when President Michael Sata and the Patriotic Front (PF) formed government last September.
Soon after reciting the presidential oath, Mr Sata reassured Zambians by committing himself that he would make sure that the constitution that has been eluding the country for two decades would be enacted within 90 days.
Mr Sata had not forgotten his campaign pledge of a new constitution within 90 days and when he opened made his maiden speech to Parliament last year; the President repeated his pledge that Zambia would have a new constitution in 90 days.
It has been one year and the constitution making process has remained the vaguest ever with a Constitutional Technical Committee that does not seem to provide any form of inspiration.
The hope Mr Sata and the PF government gave the citizens has unfortunately for the umpteenth time been shattered at the altar of political deception and the people, having gone through one of the gruesome constitutional making debacles can now only wait albeit with angst.
Just as in many other broken promises, Zambians are feeling betrayed and frustrated that the journey to a new constitution will not end any time soon as the PF government has decided to adopt a politically and non-transparent way of dealing with the constitution.
President Sata has decided to create a replica of the National Constitution Conference (NCC) in the form of the Constitution Technical Committee (CTC) that the church, civil society and other stakeholders has branded as illegal because it has no legal backing.
So it is the debate yet again and people are suspicious that President Sata and the PF government are scheming to procrastinate the process so that most of the desired issues are not included in the new draft constitution.
The PF is most likely to come up with a constitution that will suit their ambitions and not the desires and needs of the citizens given what senior party officials and those in government are propagating.
Key issues over the decades that the people have demanded to include in the new constitution are the Bill of Rights that would see government being held accountable for failing to meet its social, economic and political rights of the citizens.
These rights are essential for integral human development especially as they give the right of access to basic needs such as education, health care, a clean environment, proper housing, employment and food, water and sanitation. They also form a strong basis for the realization of another set of rights, the Civil and Political Rights, such as the right to life and the right to vote.
Zambians have also been demanding that the constitution should include the date of the general elections every five years and that the vice-president should be a running mate to the presidential candidate.
The civil society and other reformers have also been pushing the inclusion in the constitution the clause of a popularity system that would see the current First Past the Post system and replace by the 50+1 per cent of total vote for a presidential win.
But the PF, the party in government through its secretary general Wynter Kabimba, who is the new Justice Minister, has strongly objected the inclusion of the running mate and the 50+1 percent clauses in the constitution.
Mr Kabimba, who was a strong proponent of a running mate and 50+1 percent for a winning president has suddenly grown cold fit and he feels the clauses would bring anarchy to the country.
It was not surprising that President Sata did not refer to the constitution in his entire speech that he delivered to Parliament last week and this could be an indication that the PF administration has no desire to give Zambians the constitution they promised during their campaigns.
In taking the oath, President Sata said: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of Zambia, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of Zambia.”
Mr Sata seem to have forgotten the oath going his numerous actions that are purely pointing to the fact that democracy is under threat while the rule of man and not of law has taken precedence in the way the PF government is running the affairs of the country.
The hunt for a good and universally accepted constitution started with the Mvunga Constitution Review Commission (CRC) then came the Mwanakatwe and the Mung’omba yet the constitution is still far from coming.
Meanwhile, Zambians have kept painfully paying for the process which under the PF is called the Constitution Technical Committee whose composition has largely been questioned.